Thursday, August 17, 2006

three great films of 2006

[with a reminder of YT's favourite]

15 Park Avenue [january 29, 2006]: After the evocative Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, director mom Aparna Sen and talented daughter Konkona Sensharma return with a film that's arguably more cerebral in addition to packing a wallop of an ending. An interesting cast (Shabana Azmi, Rahul Bose, Dhritiman Chatterjee –- returning from 36 Chowringhee Lane to make amends for the hoary turn in Black, Shefali Shah, Waheeda Rehman, Soumitra Chatterjee (surprise!) and Kanwaljeet Singh (surprise! Surprise!)) supports an exploration of schizophrenia, strained relationships, and the perception of reality. image courtesy: The detail in the screenplay and the patience in the narrative is augmented by the stark visual style and occasionally diminished by the desafinado of a few artificial lines of dialogue. But the kinks don't prevent this film from enthralling you and then gently guiding your jaw to the floor at the end as your eyes twinkle in glee. This may not match up to the bittersweet tale Aparna Sen wove at the last address she visited, but it's a journey you won't regret.

Being Cyrus [april 17, 2006]: Saying that scuba diving instructor Homi Adajania made a great plunge with his shot-in-32-days directorial début would be a tip of the hat to Dimple Kapadia's sexy, aggravating cliché-spouting Katy Sethna. This vicious profane and mirthfully black comedy boasts a dreamy bouncy theme from Salim-Sulaiman that them gives way to some no-nonsense story-telling (complete with profanity that anticipated the flood in Omkara), crisp editing (Jon Sharp and Anand Subaya toss in flourishes that make a second viewing worth it) and a cast of excellence all lensed with aplomb by Jehangir Chowdhury. image courtesy: Saif as Cyrus Mistry makes his National Award trophy for Hum Tum seem like a progressive reward for gifts to come (since then Omkara's la.nga.Daa tyaagii has given a new mainstream star with substance). Manoj Pahwa gets the funniest lines and steals his scenes; Honey Chhaya makes a great beleagured Fardoonji Sethna; Simone Singh looks striking and has the calmest of roles complementing Boman Irani's irascible Farokh Sethna; Dimple Kapadia notches points in a no-holds barred performance and Naseeruddin Shah's Dinshaw Sethna is another stellar sample of great character acting at work -- it might not be amiss to put in a word for his turn as a Parsi (Inspector Sam Bharucha) in Encounter:The Killing. The narrative, aural and visual textures make for a hell of a compelling watch. Heck! It even managed to become the Indian English movie with the highest weekend grosser this year (so much for baseball-style statistics).

image courtesy: www.123onlinemovies.comMixed Doubles [july 11, 2006 / august 14, 2006]: After the surreally staid bleak landscape of futile existence that was Private Detective: Two Plus Two Plus Plus One and the smart smegmatic satire that was Raghu Romeo (can you imagine a funny Travis Bickle?), Rajat Kapoor scores once again with Mixed Doubles (early plug). Wife-swapping's not an easy subject to make a film on, and Anurag Kashyap weaves a magic basket of comfortable dialogue that injects humour in a lot of scenes that might've ended up making you fidget in your seat watching them. Ranvir Shorey's a great find (was reading bizarre newsitems in Barista in WBH2P2 the last thing he did in films?) and Konkona continues to stupefy as she makes Malti every bit like herself as she did Meethi (15 Park Avenue), yet making them two very disparate characters. Rajat Kapoor's turn as the calm Vinod is a great example of a part handled well enough to make it look simple. Koël Purie's the weak link with a part that's a tad as bizarre as Kenneth Desai's in Private Detective: Two Plus Two Plus One, but a bit less satisfying. Naseeruddin Shah has a short cameo that's so mindblowing that one can only watch as he effortlessly embellishes each line and frame as Malti's father. And one mustn't forget the wonderful turns from a delightful Vinay Pathak and a restrained Saurabh Shukla (who also contributed to the lyrics)[1]. A doff to Sagar for the playful background score. Reportedly shot at Kapoor's own home with wife Meenal Agarwal handling production design, with some great sound design (reportedly everything was looped) and a budget of 1.5 crore (15 million) rupees, this labour of love boasts an engaging 97 minutes and a wonderful ending. The only thing that might've gone wrong is the DVD transfer: the tape version was scaled at 2.35:1 even though the specs of the film were 1.85:1. And could someone please tell Manmohan "Adlabs" Shetty that splashing your stupid logo on the film frame in YashRajFilms fashion is as smart a move as leaving your refrigerator door open to cool the house?

[1] Saurabh Shukla doesn't shatter the custom he and Kapoor have set up of appearing in each other's films.

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